Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has unveiled a new initiative to beautify the state’s gateways with enhancements including murals, landscaping and graffiti abatement efforts along Interstate roads.
The first mural has already been completed on the southern abutment of the Wampanoag Overpass Bridge on I-195 in East Providence. The mural, depicting sailboats in a Narragansett Bay waterscape, was designed by renowned local artist Anthony Russo. The image was selected by the Governor.
“This is another step in beautifying Rhode Island’s urban Interstate gateways,” said Governor Chafee. “We are proud of our maritime traditions, and this mural celebrates the return of the America’s Cup competition after a 30-year hiatus. Images such as this one make Rhode Island a better place to live, work, and visit.”
The installation, which included substantial surface repairs to the bridge surface, was performed by contractor E.F. O’Donnell & Sons of Providence and their subcontractor, muralist Johan Bjurman of Johnston, R.I. The project qualified for an 80 percent federal match. Russo received a $2,500 honorarium which was donated by BankRI, Fidelity Investments, and the Rhode Island Commodores.
“Scenic America commends Governor Chafee and the state’s transportation leadership for their bold vision and commitment to beautifying the Rhode Island’s highways,” said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America. “Communities all over the country are realizing the importance of gateways, and Rhode Island is leading the charge to make beautiful impressions on visitors and residents alike.”
The I-195 mural is believed to be the first mural within the Interstate Highway System outside of the Southwestern United States. The installation process took four weeks, which included repairing a deteriorated concrete surface and the addition of an anti-graffiti protective coating.
“This highway beautification program has the potential to strengthen tourism and promote economic development, while also improving the aesthetic character of our State’s urban highways,” said Michael P. Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. “We are pleased that we can help create another beautiful spot in Rhode Island.”
Three additional murals, all featuring the work of Rhode Island artists, are planned for installation along I-95 in Providence, Pawtucket and Hopkinton later this year.